Two Myths about Singleness
Note from Randy: My assistant, Chelsea Dudley, has written two excellent articles on singleness. Chelsea is a true Jesus-follower, does a terrific job, and is endlessly helpful to me and EPM.
This is the first of her articles. They are both on point, solidly biblical, from her heart, and much needed. Even if you’re married, please read them! There is something here for all of us.
If you’re single right now, you have the gift of singleness.
Yes, I said a gift.
Hear me out. I’m not talking about some spiritual gifts test that says you’re doomed to be single for the rest of your life if you score high on singleness. I’m talking about a beautiful, thoughtful present from the Lord—a gift of grace from your Father.
My heart is that as you read this article, you would be refreshed and encouraged, and freed from myths about singleness. My prayer is that you would be reminded that God sees and knows you, and that He would be more glorified in your life.
If you’re married and didn’t let the title stop you from reading this article, good for you. This blog (and my next one) is just as much for you as it is for those who are single.
My hope is that my married friends will see how incredible our God is in both singleness and marriage. That you would understand you have the opportunity to rejoice with and encourage your single friends. And that ultimately, we would learn how to love and care for each other better.
A Gift of Grace
Vaughan Roberts says:
Paul speaks of it (being single) as a gift (1 Cor. 7:7), and Jesus says it is good ‘for those to whom it has been given’ (Matt. 19:11) … When Paul speaks of singleness as a gift, he isn’t speaking of a particular ability some people have to be contentedly single. Rather, he’s speaking of the state of being single. As long as you have it, it’s a gift from God, just as marriage will be God’s gift if you ever receive it. We should receive our situation in life, whether it is singleness or marriage, as a gift of God’s grace to us.
God chose to give me the gift of singleness for 34 years (I married Michael nine months ago). I was the girl in high school and college who didn’t really want a career. Being a wife and a mother was the deepest desire of my heart. Those single years were really, really hard for me. I went through relationships and break ups and times of loneliness and depression.
There were times I deeply struggled with my singleness, and because of it, I struggled with God’s sovereignty. There were other times where I learned to be content. If you’re feeling something—any emotion, really—about being single, believe me, I’ve been there.
I didn’t want the gift of singleness, and for most of my life I didn’t even view singleness as a gift.
One verse that was always hard for me to understand was “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). The deepest desire of my heart was to be married, wasn’t it?
I spent most of my single life in vocational ministry. I decided that if I wasn’t married, then I would give my life to serving Jesus. I learned so much through this season and am thankful for it, but I couldn’t get past that verse. I was delighting myself in the Lord. My whole life was devoted to Him! So why wouldn’t He give me the desires of my heart?
What I learned, and what I believe this verse means, is that when we delight ourselves in the Lord, He becomes the desire of our hearts. Delighting ourselves in Him leads to getting more of Him. This is not a genie-in-a-bottle verse: “Love God and He’ll give you whatever you want.” Instead, I learned that Jesus is enough. That He is worthy of my life. That He is the One who makes me whole. My whole life, whether married or single, I want to spend delighting in Him.
Many of you have been given the gift of singleness right now and may feel very differently about your gift. Some of you relate to how I felt and don’t want to be single in any way, shape, or form. Some of you feel perfectly content with your gift and where God has you right now. Some of you may struggle with your gift daily; others may choose to be single for the rest of your lives. However you feel about your gift, we need to learn to steward our gift wisely and to love and appreciate the Giver of our gifts.
Singleness is an important subject that, unfortunately, the church rarely talks about. In many ways the American church is set up for married people, as if marriage were the closest thing to Heaven on earth.
But that’s not how the Bible talks about singleness. Let’s dispel two myths that are common in the church today.
Myth 1: Marriage Is Heaven on Earth
It should be obvious to us, but all too often we forget that human marriage was never meant to be Heaven on earth. In Gay Girl, Good God, Jackie Perry Hill gives us a beautiful picture of what marriage is and isn’t:
In all of its glory however, [marriage] is not the highest glory. Marriage, for some time, has been esteemed idealistically—as a mini-heaven perhaps, unguarded by golden gates, entered into preferably before a woman’s pretty begins to die, or by the time a man is ready to plant his seed. From the time a young girl learns of love, she’s taught it’s in its purest form when a white dress carries a woman into an “I do.” Cartoons and children’s books indoctrinate us young with this ideal, but they aren’t the only ones making a utopia out of marriage. Christians (sometimes unknowingly) continue to make it an undue part of their gospel witness… The exaggerated promise of marriage or the unbalanced emphasis on it placed in the Christian life can lead…to [men and women] being disoriented about God’s specific call for them. Which we can say with confidence God’s call is this: to love God and love people (Matthew 22:26-40).
For some, loving God will lead them down a path of God-honoring marriage. For others, a life of God-exalting singleness. …In both, God is glorified.
The book of Genesis introduced us to the mystery of marriage, and Revelation concludes with the consummation of what marriage reveals. In Revelation, we are given a glimpse of what will happen once the church, Christ’s bride, forgiven sinners, stainless saints are finally at home with their Bridegroom, who purchased their “I do” when He declared, “It is finished.” This is the highest glory of the Christian life, to be married to the King of Glory. Marriage is glorious, but it is not Him. Though many have projected onto marriage what only God can give in Himself, it is not God. It is a creation of God for the glory of God so that the world can get a picture of the gospel of God.
Marriage is a good thing. But it is a living, breathing parable, not the ultimate reality. Marriage is not the end all; it is a reflection of the end all. As glorious as it is, it’s not the most glorious; it merely points to the most glorious. Marriage is not the gospel; it’s a picture of the gospel.
Sam Allberry writes:
…singleness, like marriage, has a unique way of testifying to the gospel of grace. Jesus said there will be no marriage in the new creation. In that respect we’ll be like the angels, neither marrying nor being given in marriage (Matt. 22:30). We will have the reality; we will no longer need the signpost.
By foregoing marriage now, singleness is a way of both anticipating this reality and testifying to its goodness. It’s a way of saying this future reality is so certain that we can live according to it now. If marriage shows us the shape of the gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency. It’s a way of declaring to a world obsessed with sexual and romantic intimacy that these things are not ultimate, and that in Christ we possess what is.
Psalm 16:11 says, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” It doesn’t say in marriage there is fullness of joy. It says in God’s presence there is fullness of joy. Jesus is where joy is found.
Marriage doesn’t mean you’ve arrived. Jesus does. Marriage is hard. It reveals your sins in a way singleness never will. People are messy and when two people become one, the mess is magnified.
Don’t get me wrong: marriage can be wonderful and a gift. But singleness is a gift too. And married people can struggle just as much (or even more) as single people do.
Marriage is not Heaven on earth. Jesus is.
Myth 2: Singleness Is a Curse
False. As we’ve seen, singleness is a gift.
There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re single. You aren’t cursed, though I know it’s tempting to feel that way.
I can’t count how many times well-intentioned church ladies told me, “I just can’t believe you’re not married yet! You’re such a great catch” or “When you get married…” or “It must not be God’s timing yet. He wants to teach you something first.” (If this is you, please stop. These statements don’t help your single friends. Instead, encourage them with how you see God working in their lives.)
Statements like these made me wonder what was wrong with me or what I needed to do in order to deserve a husband. Again, though it may feel like it at times, singleness is not a curse. It’s a gift.
In her book Let Me Be a Woman, Elisabeth Elliot said,
Having now spent more than forty-one years single, I have learned that it is indeed a gift. Not one I would choose. Not one many women would choose. But we do not choose our gifts, remember? We are given them by a divine Giver who knows the end from the beginning, and wants above all else to give us the gift of Himself.
If you are a believer in Jesus, you already have the best gift that could ever be given. You have the Giver Himself. Singleness may not be the gift you wish you had right now, but the Gift Giver is good and knows exactly what you need in order to get more of Him in your life.
The Best Gift
After years of struggling with my singleness, I decided that instead of dwelling on what I didn’t have, I wanted to dwell on what I did have. And what I had was the best gift of all—Jesus. In my singleness I wanted to show that Jesus is enough. The Lover of my soul was all I needed. My Savior was the one who made me whole.
So whether married or single, let’s fight to see singleness the way God sees it: as an incredible gift that can show the watching world that Jesus is enough.
Chelsea Dudley works at Eternal Perspective Ministries as Randy Alcorn's Executive Assistant.